Silo or Segment?

Posted By Tony Akers on Oct 8, 2017 |

A sincere staff member once accused me of existing only my ministry “silo”.  Because of who he was, and his commitment to our ministry, I could not dismiss his observation. But I was still angry.

After my anger subsided, I began to understand he had a point. I came to understand several difficult conclusions about the youth ministry.

  •  We did OUR events and rarely invited other staff members to speak into them or attend them.
  •  We promoted OUR ministries regularly in social media but didn’t use our platforms to highlight special things that were happening in other areas of ministry
  •  We headhunted the best and brightest volunteers in the church for OUR ministry and unintentionally left other ministries struggling to “staff” their areas.
  •  We highlighted positive numbers in OUR ministry reports even as we knew that other ministry areas could not do the same.

Two tough questions began to form in my mind after my “silo” accusation—

  1. Was my pursuit of being the “special” ministry and the “one that works” in the church nothing more than my insecurities being played out in my vocational life? Probably.
  2.  Was this approach what was best for the church as a whole?  No.

A change needed to be made.

Zig Ziglar, the motivational speaker and business leader once said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

What if our version of “success” in the youth ministry shifted to include helping other ministries in the church succeed as well?

What would that look like in your context?

Here are some easy ways to begin to address the slow creep of “silo-ing” in youth ministry—

Invite Others into the Youth Ministry

We know that good youth ministry is not a program.  Good youth ministry begins with a church that values young people and determines to disciple them well.  Though your children’s pastor passes off kids to you to lead in the youth ministry, they do not stop loving them!

Invite opportunities for key staffers like a children’s pastor, college pastor, or any pastor to speak into the lives of your students. Perhaps invite other ministry leaders to be present occasionally to serve, to speak, or to observe your ministry. Their ministry of “presence” will be noticed and appreciated by the youth.

Advocate for All

Those meetings you despise attending can actually be helpful to others if we approach them with a good attitude and humility. You are at the table because you have been invited to participate. Your finger is on the pulse of a great number of families in your church.  Because of this, the mandate is to speak up and to share a helpful suggestion or a caution if a decision might be a blind spot for another staffer or a hindrance to ministry.  Your commitment to other ministries in the church will be appreciated as you advocate for ministry health in every area.

Share Volunteers

Our children’s pastor once quipped in a meeting that they had spent years equipping and training adults to do children’s ministry and then once they were really “getting it” they were lost to the youth ministry.

She was right!

Just because a child graduates from children’s ministry and moves up to youth ministry does not mean their parents need to go as well. Consider encouraging folks to continue serving in the children’s ministry and to be what you are asking other folks to be for their children in the youth ministry?

“Lock” Up

When boats go through a lock they are passed through a series of “tanked” segments where the water is physically raised. As the water raises, the boat is lifted and passes through to a new segment until they reach the other side of the impediment.

If those of us in youth ministry can begin to see ourselves as one of those segments and not the entire “lock” we will begin the important shift of valuing all ministry and not just our own.

Discipleship demands that we receive children from the children’s ministry well and that we pass them on to adult ministry well.  We DO NOT want our students to leave our youth ministries believing they have achieved all there is to achieve in their faith and have “done it all.”  Unfortunately, we can subtly communicate that when our preparation for a life of faith does not value what comes before and what follows after the youth ministry.

So, where are you?  Are you a silo or a segment?

I encourage you to spend some time with that question and to humbly receive the answer.

Some things are too important not to share—the lives of the young people we steward week to week in our ministries included.